ESD Tech Tour Day 1: North To MTU In A Cool Ride

Greetings from Houghton, where the 2014 Engineering Society of Detroit Fall Tech Tour is under way.

Your humble narrator left Southfield about 8:30 this morning and arrived safe and sound (well, as sound as he ever is) at the Magnusson Franklin Square Inn in downtown Houghton a little after 6:30 p.m.

Tomorrow, I’ll be meeting with the president, deans, professors and students at Michigan Technological University. I’ll be talking to them about how Michigan Tech is working to fill the future talent pipeline of scientists and engineers — and how Michigan Tech research is building the Michigan economy of tomorrow.

As usual, my host will be the genial Jenn Donovan, director of news and media relations at Michigan Tech. She’s a veteran newswoman and a solid PR pro who’s lucky enough to have a really easy thing to sell — an absolutely amazing high-tech university that also just happens to be situated in an outdoor lover’s paradise. (It’s also a school that lets kids from southern Michigan go away to school — and I mean really, really, REALLY away — and still pay in-state tuition. Did you know it’s farther from Detroit to Michigan Tech than it is from Detroit to Washington, D.C.? Now you do.)

My ride for this year’s Tech Tour is courtesy of Ford Motor Co., and I will admit it’s hard to be objective about it — it’s a Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid that’s almost identical to the C-MAX Hybrid of the non-plug-in variety that’s already in my driveway. (Mine doesn’t have the leather seats and serious tech toys that this top-of-the-line model has, though.) It’s built on a small car platform but rides much bigger — solid, serene, whisper-quiet. Its combination of gasoline engine and electric motor give it some serious zip, and it handles like a roller skate. There’s ample interior space for four full-grown adults. The only drawback? Those cool high-tech batteries that let you spend a lot of time on electric power even at highway speeds (and that let me get 42 mpg on the way up here) have to go somewhere, and Ford put them in the trunk. So the trunk is tiny.  You’ll get a full review later, but for now, consider it recommended — as long as you don’t need a big trunk.

The Tech Tour continues next week with visits to Saginaw Valley State University, Central Michigan University, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University and Michigan State University.

And I’ll be working your ears as well as your eyes — keep an eye and an ear peeled for podcasts this week on this blog, as well.

Now it’s time for a little shut-eye before a busy Friday. Starting with Finnish breakfast at that wonder of downtown Houghton, Suomi. (That’s Finnish for “Finland.” Not terribly creative, but boy do they whip up a mean pannukakku.) (That’s Finnish for “pancake,” in the same way the French say “le pique-nique” when they picnic. Whatever, it’s delicious.)

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